2012"s hardware is still up lớn the task of running 2016"s software.

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Andrew Cunningham - Sep 13, 2016 6:10 pm UTC


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I’ve been tracking the performance of new ios versions on the slowest supported hardware for four years now, và I don’t think my findings have been positive since I wrote about ios 6 on the iPhone 3GS. Game ios 7 was a bad fit for the iPhone 4, và iOS 7.1 was only an improvement in a relative sense. Tiện ích ios 8 & iOS 9 were tolerable on the iPhone 4S, but they were still significant slowdowns compared to ios 6 và 7.

But we have some reason khổng lồ be optimistic about ios 10 on the iPhone 5. The phone is more than twice as fast as the 4S and has double the RAM. Its screen is the same kích cỡ and resolution as the one in the just-launched iPhone SE, so you know that Apple và all other tiện ích developers are still fine-tuning their apps for it.

So how enthusiastic should iPhone 5 và 5C owners be about ios 10? Can you get the new features without worrying about a slowdown, or should you give táo khuyết some more time to lớn optimize (or more money for another phone)?

What you’re missing

Every time a new iPhone is released, it does some stuff that previous iPhones couldn’t do. Sometimes that just means going faster, và sometimes that means the addition of special hardware like a fingerprint sensor or NFC chip. Here’s a combination of all the hardware & software features the iPhone 5 is missing relative khổng lồ the iPhone 6S, not including processor benchmarks or camera improvements.

TouchID và Apple Pay3D TouchVoicemail transcriptionNew Photos app features lượt thích Memories, Related, People, and SceneNight ShiftSafari content blockersRaise-to-wakeStep tracking without external hardware lượt thích an táo WatchBurst photos & slow-mo video64-bit và Metal API support.

That’s a not-insignificant danh sách of things, but it’s also much shorter than the các mục for iPhone 4S with iOS 8 và 9. The iPhone 5 can vì all of the Airdrop và Handoff stuff, & it supports the hãng apple Watch as well as all of game ios 10’s headlining APIs và app improvements.

Performance & battery life: tiện ích ios 9-ish

Comparing phầm mềm launch times has historically been a reliable way lớn measure relative performance—it’s not the best, most all-encompassing real-world test, but the odds are good that if phầm mềm launch times slow way down, the rest of the phone will feel slower as well. Luckily, most apps in quả táo 10 launch about as quickly as they did in quả táo 9, reflecting the fact that tiện ích ios 9 & iOS 10 mostly run similarly.

As always, these tests were run on freshly-reset phones signed into a chạy thử iCloud account. Each phầm mềm was launched, force quit, & then launched again. The times below are the average of three launches.

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 ApplicationiOS 9.3.5iOS 10.0.1 GMChange
Safari1.55 seconds1.77 seconds +14%
Camera1.03 seconds1.05 seconds +2%
Settings1.02 seconds1.05 seconds +3%
Mail1.17 seconds1.66 seconds +42%
Messages1.45 seconds1.72 seconds +18.5%
Calendar1.04 seconds0.97 seconds -7%
Cold boot37.1 seconds37.3 seconds +0.5%

For Camera, Settings, Calendar, & the boot process, these times are so close that most users won"t notice a difference, and both Safari and Messages also manage khổng lồ come pretty close. Mail is the only phầm mềm that sees a modest slowdown with iOS 10 similar to the way most apps slowed down when the iPhone 4S jumped to tiện ích ios 8. In absolute terms all of these changes are small, and there is no sign of the across-the-board slowdown we saw on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S when they were updated to quả táo 7 and iOS 8, respectively. You don"t thất bại the feeling of general responsiveness & fluidity throughout the OS, something that"s harder to measure with a stopwatch but which definitely contributed khổng lồ the slowdown on those older devices.

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Relative battery life is about the same too, though for reasons we’ll explore later the iPhone 5 can’t last as long as newer iPhones can running the same software.

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These numbers are encouraging, but I also used the iPhone 5 as my main phone for a couple of days to get a sense of how it actually feels to lớn use tiện ích ios 10 on it. Again, it’s mostly good news, at least if you’re happy with how the phone runs game ios 9.

Using the phone in real life

Most basic day-to-day things still feel pretty good on the iPhone 5. Bringing up the Intelligence screen, the Notification Center, the Control Center, or the multitasking switcher all happens smoothly without the inconsistency or dropped frames that plague an iPhone 4S running quả táo 9. You’ll mostly run into problems in three areas: games, multitasking, and battery life.

The GPU in the iPhone 5S can be as much as three or four times faster than the GPU in the iPhone 5, và newer iPhone GPUs are even faster. That by itself is enough khổng lồ explain why even simple-looking games lượt thích Pokémon Go and Shooty Skies can exhibit choppy framerates on the iPhone 5. They’re still playable, but performance is less consistent since the hardware is being pushed khổng lồ its limits.

The same principle explains why multitasking—switching from one tiện ích to another, replying khổng lồ a message directly from a notification, doing things with the phone while it’s also performing a background task lượt thích app updating or a large download—can make the phone chug a little. As long as you’re just doing one thing, the tốc độ feels pretty good. The iPhone 5 launched with tiện ích ios 6, after all, software that was far more locked down and less capable than tiện ích ios is today.

And then there"s battery life. Part of the problem stems from the older hardware—if the SoC is working harder than it did under older versions of iOS, that means that the chip spends less time idling, & idle time is where modern phones & laptops save power. The biggest battery life jumps in recent years have come because Apple, Intel, and others have figured out how to lớn let their chips spend more time not doing anything và by making the processors switch between active & idle states more quickly. The iPhone 5 và 5C are working harder more often, so battery life is more of a problem than it is on a newer phone lượt thích the iPhone SE (that phone’s chips were all made using newer, more power-efficient manufacturing processes, which also helps).

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The other factor is normal wear-and-tear. Any iPhone 5 or 5C out there right now is somewhere between two and four years old, & if your phone’s battery hasn’t been replaced at some point, you’ve probably lost a significant amount of capacity. Since those phones are also mostly out of warranty, it’s relatively easy khổng lồ find a third-party who will change your battery out for a fresh one, and iFixit sells kits that make it relatively easy to vị yourself. But if you or someone you know is using an older iPhone 5 or 5C at this point, a new battery is probably worth looking into.

The most important thing to lưu ý for the purposes of this article is that all of these things were also problems in game ios 9, và that tiện ích ios 10 doesn’t appear to lớn make any of them worse. They’re just realities of using a phone made in 2012 to lớn run software made in 2016. Phone hardware is maturing rapidly, but the year-over-year improvements are still noticeable, & cumulatively the last four years of updates are even more noticeable.

Should you update?


For the first time in a while, I’m comfortable recommending the latest version of quả táo for the oldest-supported iPhone without major caveats or qualifications. Yes, newer iPhones are faster & can vì more things, but if you’re still using an iPhone 5 or 5C (or if you’ve handed your old one down to lớn someone else in your circle of family & friends), ios 10 will treat the hardware about the same as quả táo 9 did—not bad, given that the iPhone 5 is four years old.

I’ve always been frustrated by the “forced obsolescence” argument with respect to lớn iPhones and iPads, & the fact that ios 10 runs pretty well on the iPhone 5 makes it even more silly than it normally is. There is, khổng lồ put it quite simply, no other company on Earth who is providing this kind of tư vấn for its phones. Not one. How many years has it been since Samsung even thought about the Galaxy S III? The smartphone htc One X didn’t even make it two years. Microsoft ditched the Lumia 920 with the Windows 10 update despite promises that all Windows Phone 8 phones would be supported. Even Google won’t commit to keeping a phone around & up-to-date for more two years. & it’s getting to lớn the point where any given apk phone maker couldn’t keep hardware updated for more than two or three years even if it wanted to.

iOS 10 treats the iPhone 5 pretty well, and I would expect this khổng lồ gradually become the new “normal” as the gap between the newest, best iPhone và the slowest, oldest supported iPhone continues lớn narrow. Huge performance gains will get harder khổng lồ come by as the điện thoại settles into its boring middle age and as manufacturing smaller, more power-efficient chips becomes more difficult, and as a result your hardware should stop feeling old quite so quickly.